MIDDLETOWN—Celebrities, filmmakers, and fans came out to the Paramount Theatre on June 3 for the stylish opening of the Hoboken International Film Festival (HIFF). The honoree of the event was Danny Aiello, who accepted the HIFF award for Excellence in Film & the Arts.
Those who created and starred in the works presented took to the red carpet to promote their films, TV pilots and documentaries. Kay Rubacek, Yulia Tullar, and Paulio Shakespeare spoke about their documentary, “Hard to Believe.”
Rubacek’s company, Swoop Films, produced the film about an alarming topic—the killing of prisoners of conscience in China for their organs.
“The topic’s not new,” she said, “but many people haven’t paid attention to this kind of thing that’s been going on for so long. We are trying to raise the profile of this issue.”
Tullar, who handles PR for Swoop, works with medical institutions, colleges, and universities across the country, as well as clinical and bio ethicists, to bring awareness to organ harvesting. Tullar is married to Epoch Times Sales Manager Matt Tullar.
She said it is rewarding work.
“I get to see college students and the next generation of doctors becoming aware of this issue, where they take this issue very seriously,” she said.
PBS has been airing the film since last September. Shakespeare, one of the producers, said he was doing a shoot in San Francisco’s Chinatown when a shopkeeper approached him, not knowing Shakespeare had worked on the film.
“This guy started telling me about organ harvesting,” Shakespeare said. “It was just a guy on the street. He said, ‘Watch this film on PBS.’ I found that really moving when the general public watched it, were moved by it, and started coming to tell people about it.”
Actor Scott Churchson wanted a change in his life as a financial advisor so he decided to take up acting six years ago. He appears in two films up for awards in the festival, “Blue Lives Matter” and “After the Outbreak.”
He says “Blue Lives Matter” is a thriller from a first-person perspective about a person framed for murder. The film was produced in a very economical manner.
“We got the entire film done—rehearsal and everything—in three days,” he said.
“After the Outbreak” is a zombie movie. “I play a reporter,” Churchson said. “I may or may not survive, depending on how it works out.”
Steve Stanulis has a lead role in “Confidence Game,” which is screening at the festival, but is best known as a security guard for celebrities who claimed he was fired by Kanye West after speaking to Kim Kardashian.
He is being sued for $30 million by West and Kardashian for violating a confidentiality clause in his contract by giving at least three media interviews making the claims.
He hopes the lawsuit will be settled soon. “I’m ready to move on and stop being the bodyguard,” he said.
Besides Danny Aiello, another familiar face on the red carpet belonged to the woman who played one of daytime TV’s most beloved villains.
Longtime star in the soap “As the World Turns,” Colleen Zenk has continued acting since the soap was cancelled and plays a corrupt judge in “Blue Lives Matter.” She calls the movie “a very edgy vigilante film.”
She accepted the role because she liked the script, she said. In two weeks Zenk will appear in a two-character play called “Inside the Box” on Broadway.
Films are about more than stars though, sometimes the biggest role in a scene goes to the music.
Composers Ken Hampton and David Edwards of Composers Media Group, composed the music for the film “12 Angry Men and Women.” Hampton has worked with festival head Kenneth Del Vecchio on his movies for the last two years. He said he uses “synthesonic sounds.”
“We play keys, and we also deal with orchestration,” he said.
Some attending the festival are not so well known, but have been working with Hollywood greats for years.
Veteran actor Mark Stolzenberg has worked with Danny Aiello, Tom Selleck, and Robin Williams.
Now working on the other side of the camera as well, his festival entry is “Twisted,” which he calls “an anthology of interesting, quirkish stories, kind of like Rod Serling meets SNL.”
He wrote, directed, and introduced each story in the anthology.
“The stories are engaging, contemporary, with good hooks,” he said.
Local Economy and Politics
Del Vecchio, chair of the festival, also directed, produced, and starred in several films in the lineup. He said the festival infused millions of dollars into the local economy, a point of pride for him.
“There is nothing more important than that. The more money that is put into the economy means the more people can earn, the more people can keep, and the more people can enjoy themselves,”he said.
He said the fun part of the festival is hosting filmmakers from across the country and the world to show their work.
“There’s a lot of glitz and glamour. Most areas across the country don’t get to see that. It’s a fun time. We have a lot of fun with it.”
The Festival is in its 11th year and lays claim to being one of the 10 biggest film festivals in the world.
The festival’s awards ceremony was hosted by Gilbert Gottfried.
Estimated festival attendance has eclipsed 15,000 in past years.
To contact this reporter, email [email protected]